Boys basketball: Serena runs past Earlville for second straight LTC Tournament title

Huskers used 19-3 second quarter burst in an eventual 51-27 victory over the Red Raiders in the 105th annual event

Members of the Serena boys basketball team hoist the Little Ten Conference Championship trophy after defeating Earlville on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024 at Somonauk High School.

SOMONAUK — After cutting down his part of the net, and while watching his players take turns doing the same, Serena coach Dain Twait was asked about his squad playing a near perfect game, or at least first half, against Earlville in the championship game of the 105th annual Little Ten Conference Tournament on Friday.

“As much as we go on great scoring runs during games and most of the time shoot the ball pretty well, it all goes back to how bad these guys want to defend and not let the other team score,” Twait said. “Earlville obviously didn’t shoot the ball as well as they would have hoped, but I would hope some of that had to do with our defense.

“When you have a group of guys that care more about guarding the basketball than scoring the basketball, that’s a very good thing to have. That’s what we have had the past two seasons.”

“When all five of our guys on the floor share the ball, find the open man and run the floor, I feel we are a tough team to beat.”

—  Dain Twait, Serena boys absketball coach

The top-seed Huskers (23-1) exploded on a 19-3 second quarter run to eventually post a 51-27 running-clock victory over the No. 2 Red Raiders (23-2) to claim to league’s top prize — the Al Stegman Championship Trophy — for the second consecutive season, and 18th in program history.

Earlville, in the title game for the first time since 1985, was looking to capture the gold ball for the first time since 1956.

“We really rebounded the ball well and that led to us being able to really get into transition,” said Twait, his squad putting together spurts of 12-2 and 13-2 in the opening half. “Our halfcourt offense wasn’t great at all, but there were stretches where it was defensive rebound and fast break on multiple possessions. When all five of our guys on the floor share the ball, find the open man and run the floor, I feel we are a tough team to beat.”

It was the first time since 1963 that the two teams vying for the title each entered the contest with only one loss.

Serena, as it has much of the season, used balanced scoring, a stifling defense, holding Earlville to just 3 of 23 shooting in the opening 16 minutes and 10 of 45 for the game, to earn the win. Tanner Faivre led the way with 12 points, three rebounds and six assists. Carson Baker added 11 points and five rebounds, Richie Armour 10 points and six rebounds, Hunter Staton nine points and a game-high nine rebounds and Beau Raikes eight points and five rebounds.

The Huskers owned a 36-28 rebound advantage and shot 39% (19 of 49) from the field. while causing 18 Red Raider miscues.

“We’ve been playing together since we were all little and it’s just an amazing feeling knowing we’ve now won this tournament two straight times,” Faivre said. “This championship is also for coach Twait because he puts in so much time getting us prepared for every game we play.

“Coach told us the biggest two keys tonight were going to be boxing out on the defensive end and keeping (Griffin) Cook in check as much as we could. I think we did a pretty good job with both. I feel like we played pretty well on defense and ran the floor good as well. Like coach says, ‘Get it and go’ and that’s what we try and do. That second quarter was a blast.”

Serena led 12-5 after one before scoring on four straight fast break opportunities, including Raikes’ triple with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining to push the lead to 21-5. Two hoops from Baker, a 3 by Staton and two free throws by Faivre extended the margin to 31-8 at halftime.

Griffin Cook paced Earlville with 13 points, four rebounds and three steals, while Ryan Browder (five rebounds) and Easton Fruit each scored four points.

Both teams are unbeaten in LTC regular season play and meet next Friday in Earlville.

“First of all, Serena is a very good team, no doubt about it,” Earlville coach Gerald Fruit said. “We talked before the game about staying calm under pressure and running our offense. We didn’t do either of those things very well. We didn’t shoot the ball, especially in the first half, and part of that was not being patient and taking not good shots.

“Serena got on a run right from the start and everything seemed to be going their way, but sometimes you just have to find a way to get things reversed. We just weren’t able to do that tonight. As far as working hard and effort, I have nothing bad to say about my guys, they gave it everything they had. Sometimes it’s just your night and nothing you try changes that.

“We’ll regroup and hopefully learn from our mistakes tonight going into next Friday’s game against them.”

BOXSCORE

At Somonauk

105th annual Little Ten Conference Tournament

Championship game

Serena 51, Earlville 27

EARLVILLE (27) — Waite 0-3 0-2 0, Munoz 1-3 1-2 3, T. Fruit 0-6 0-0 0, Cook 5-11 3-5 13, Browder 2-11 0-1 4, E. Fruit 1-8 1-2 4, Gonzalez 0-2 0-0 0, Tirevold 0-0 0-0 0, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Brandt 0-0 0-0 0, Guelde 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 10-45 5-12 27.

SERENA (51) — Baker 4-8 2-2 11, Raikes 3-7 0-0 8, Faivre 4-10 4-4 12, Armour 4-11 2-2 10, Staton 4-10 0-0 9, Farrell 0-2 1-2 1, Twait 0-0 0-0 0, Rosengren 0-0 0-0 0, Falz 0-1 0-0 0, Weiss 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-49 9-10 51.

Earlville (23-2) 5 3 10 9 – 27

Serena (23-1) 12 19 19 1 – 51

3-point goals — Earlville 1-12 (Waite 0-1, Munoz 0-1, T. Fruit 0-1, Browder 0-4, E. Fruit 1-3, Gonzalez 0-1, Guelde 1-1); Serena 4-19 (Baker 1-4, Raikes 2-5, Faivre 0-3, Staton 1-5, Farrell 0-1, Falz 0-1). Rebounds — Earlville 28 (Munoz 5, Browder 5); Serena 36 (Staton 9, Armour 6). Assists — Earlville 4 (Browder 2); Serena 14 (Faivre 6). Steals — Earlville 6 (Cook 3); Serena 9 (Armour 3). Blocks — Earlville 2 (Munoz 1, Gonzalez 1); Serena 6 (Staton 3, Baker 2). Turnovers — Earlville 18, Serena 13. Total fouls (fouled out) — Earlville 16 (Cook); Serena 11 (none).

Earlville's Ryan Browder grabs a rebound against Serena during the Little Ten Conference Championship on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024 at Somonauk High School.